So, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) violated a San Francisco city ordinance when she went inside for a haircut Monday. She was the only client in the salon, and she said Wednesday that she relied on the salon to tell her what was right.
Whether Pelosi should have looked up the restrictions more closely before going into the salon is an open question.
Regulations in that area are constantly changing, and the state of California’s restriction website, confusingly, said earlier this week that people can visit salons in San Francisco “indoors with condition.” (The city allowed outdoor services a day after Pelosi’s visit.) Then on Wednesday night, the stylist who did Pelosi’s hair issued a statement alleging that the salon owner approved Pelosi’s in-person visit and had been secretly operating the salon in violation of ordinances since April. (Pelosi’s regular at-home stylist wasn’t available, so going to this salon during the pandemic was a new thing for her.)
Another open question: Pelosi took off her mask — she often wears one that wraps around the back of her neck — to get her hair washed and is seen in security footage obtained by Fox News walking to another room maskless. Her office says that’s the only time in the visit she was maskless.
Those two actions would seem to fall into the questionable-decision category. Could she have done better in private, when she thought no one was watching? Probably. But they don’t seem nearly as risky as what President Trump did just last week for his nominating speech at the Republican National Convention: host 1,500 largely untested, maskless guests on the White House South Lawn in chairs close together.
Pelosi seemed to breathe more life into the uproar on the right when she called the whole thing a “setup” on Wednesday afternoon, injecting more mystery and drama into the story.
She told reporters in San Francisco: “I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times, and when they said we are able to accommodate people one person at a time, and that we can set up that time. I trusted that. As it turns out it was a setup. So I take responsibility for falling for a setup, and that’s all I’m going to say on that.”
Pelosi’s office says she took responsibility for her actions with that statement, but it sounds more like she’s casting blame, dangling the notion that someone reeled her into this salon to capture her haircut and broadcast it to the world. And falling for that is what she said she takes responsibility for. “I think that the salon owes me an apology, for setting me up,” she said.
Pelosi didn’t elaborate on what she meant by a setup. But the stylist who did her hair issued a statement hours late accusing the salon owner, Erica Kious, of misleadingly framing Pelosi as the only client to have visited the salon in person in months. “The fact that Ms. Kious is now objecting to Speaker Pelosi’s presence at eSalon, and from a simple surface-level review of Ms. Kious’ political leanings, it appears Ms. Kious is furthering a set-up of Speaker Pelosi for her own vain aspirations,” the statement from stylist Jonathan DeNardo says.
“We’re supposed to look up to this woman, right?” Kious told Fox News. “It is just disturbing.” Kious denied Pelosi’s setup comment. So now we have a she-said, he-said situation, where each side is probably going to see what they want to see.
Pelosi appears to view this whole salon thing as a political distraction from Republicans’ documented failings in the Trump administration and in some governor’s offices and — she would argue — in Congress, in handling the coronavirus.
And when you look at this in comparison to how the Trump administration botched early testing and the president himself failed to take coronavirus seriously until it was too late, this is just a haircut. And she has an explanation for each perceived slip-up in following local regulations.
Even if all this criticism is unwarranted, the fact is the salon visit and Pelosi’s response do not help Democrats argue that they are the ones taking covid-19 seriously.
Republicans sent out an email to reporters on Wednesday trying to cast Pelosi as part of a long line of Democratic politicians flouting rules that they themselves established. (The other high-profile accusation is that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) ate at a restaurant indoors in Maryland even as he has banned such practices back home.)
Democratic politicians are at a disadvantage in this debate because they are the ones doing more than Republicans to limit people’s activities. And polls show that at least for governors, residents are rewarding Democrats for doing it.
Republicans have, on the whole, taken coronavirus restrictions less seriously. They have been heavily criticized in the media for not wearing masks against their own health experts’ advice, or fist-bumping with maskless guests at Vice President Pence’s Republican National Convention speech, or holding indoor political rallies, or packing the White House South Lawn with 1,500 not-socially distanced people. But they can’t be called hypocritical for doing it.
Republicans’ ire over Pelosi’s haircut, as laid out by the president’s tweet on it, is that Democrats are making one set of rules for themselves and one set for everyone else — not that Pelosi’s actions risked making her and the salon less safe.
That’s arguably not fair, but that’s the state of play in America right now.
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